Nick Name: The Universal Spider
Birthday: July 3, 1423
Died At Age: 60
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Louis the Prudent
Born Country: France
Born in: Bourges, France
Famous as: King of France
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Charlotte of Savoy (m. 1451), Dauphine of France (m. 1436–1445), Margaret Stewart
father: Charles VII, King of France
mother: Marie of Anjou
siblings: Charles of Valois, Duke of Berry
children: Anne of France, Charles VIII, Francis of France, Guyotte de Valois, Jeanne de Mirebeau; Dame de Mirebeau, Joan of France; Duchess of Berry
Died on: August 30, 1483
place of death: Castle of Plessis-lez-Tours, La Riche, France
Cause of Death: Hemorrhagic Stroke
Who was Louis XI of France?
Louis XI of France, also known as ‘Louis the Prudent,’ was King of France. He ruled France from 1461 to 1483. He spent most of his childhood years at Loches, Touraine. He grew up in seclusion and hence, became a silent, introvert, and a secretive man with high level of intelligence. While he was still a teenager, he began accompanying his father on his military expeditions. Around that time, most parts of France were being ruled by the English. Some dukes were against King Charles VII and conspired against him; they also had the support of his son, Louis XI. Due to constant clashes with his father, he was banished from the royal court and fled to live with the Duke of Burgundy, where he stayed until his father’s death in 1461, following which he came back to claim the throne. He turned out to be a hardworking and great ruler who was never liked by his opponents, but adored by his people. He was nicknamed the ‘universal spider’ due to the cunning schemes he devised. He also ended the ‘Hundred Years’ War’ and strengthened the French economy.
Childhood & Early Life
Louis XI was born on July 3, 1423, in Bourges, France, to King Charles VII of France and his wife, Marie of Anjou. Louis was the eldest of the two sons of the couple and hence the rightful heir to the throne of France.
However, he was born at a time when France was not in its best shape. Most part of France was ruled by English, who held the northern France, including Paris. King Charles VII ruled over the center and southern France. It was the peak of the ‘Hundred Years’ War’ and French economy was not in great shape either.
The day after Louis was born, the French suffered a crushing defeat in Cravant and the danger of English army entering Bourges anytime loomed large. However, over the next two decades, Charles VII somehow earned some respect back when he led the French army to a few successful military campaigns, receiving help from his great military commanders, such as Jacques Coeur and Joan of Arc.
Louis spent early few years of his life in a fortress in Loches. He was taught by tutors appointed specifically for him. Like many princes of his era, he learned classical Latin. He also studied French language in-depth and is known as one of the very few kings who had their own unique style of writing French. He was good in academics and was a scholar.
He also studied mathematics, science, and history. When not pursuing academics, he was learning horseback riding, fighting with bow and arrow, swords, and lances. He was raised away from his parents and hence, he had no princely tantrums in him. He grew up as a simple kid.
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When he was 10 years old, he was sent to live with his mother and sisters at Amboise. Up to that point, he was unaware of the political, social, and economic turmoil that France was going through. He came to know about his duties as a Prince for the first time.
He also came to know about his father’s incompetence as a ruler. His father was unable to gather all the Dukes of France to form an alliance against the invaders, particularly the English. The utter shame and the humiliation that his father faced as a ruler had left a long lasting impression on him.
By then Louis knew that there was many nobles across France who were dissatisfied by his father’s rue as the king. He met a few of them and conspired against his father. He was 16 at that time. In 1440, he gathered all the conspirers and embarked into an open rebellion. The ultimate goal of the rebellion was to dethrone King Charles and make him the king instead.
However, without proper planning and underestimating of his father’s powers, the rebellion failed badly and Louis eventually surrendered himself to his father. However, as cunning as he was, he managed to persuade his father to forgive him and even increase his income.
In 1441, Louis embarked on various military campaigns and earned his father’s respect and eventually a place in the King’s Council. His success in his campaigns in Dauphine further increased his credibility as king’s successor.
However, things went south around 1450 when Louis decided to marry again, against his father’s will. In the mid-1450s, the constant arguments took an ugly turn and King Charles opened a military attack on his son, residing in Dauphine. Louis fled and took asylum with the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good.
As King of France
Louis XI was staying with the ‘Duke of Burgundy’ in 1461 when he heard the news about his father’s demise. He rushed to the royal court and took the throne for himself in August 1461. For the first few years of his reign, he spent a lot of time correcting the mistakes his father had made. He organized and also centralized the government.
He was a cunning diplomat and a strong-willed man. He won back many parts of northern France that were occupied by the English. He also made several alliances and strengthened France’s military prowess. He also brought all the rogue dukes under his direct control.
He became popular among the masses for his simple lifestyle. He did not held magnificent courts and did not show off his power and massive wealth. He spent a lot of time on roads and would eat meals with farmers, exhibiting humility.
Louis was a self-sufficient ruler and did not rely much on his nobles and hence, he earned their hatred. Many conspired against him, including his younger brother, who raised an army against Louis. But Louis managed to use diplomatic means to crush the rebellion.
In the 1470s, the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold, attacked Louis, but Louis very smartly allied with the English forces of King Edward IV of England. This led to the establishment of peace with England, and also the end of the ‘100 Years’ War.’
Charles the Bold died in 1477. Louis seized the opportunity and took many parts of Burgundy under his control. Thus he strengthened France way more than his father ever could.
The French economy flourished and the royal power was increased. Owing to these achievements, Louis XI is known as one of the greatest kings of France.
Personal Life & Death
Louis XI of France married Margaret Stewart at the age of 13. She passed away in 1445, at the age of 20.
Louis then married Charlotte of Savoy in 1451, against the wishes of his father. She was too young at the time of her marriage. Their marriage consummated when she turned 14.
They had eight children together, out of which only 3 survived until adulthood - Anne, Joan, and Charles VIII of France.
Louis XI died on August 30, 1483. He was succeeded by his son, Charles VIII.